By DAPO OLAWUNI
There is palpable tension building at Nigerian ports over the alleged total system collapse in the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) a development that has made it difficult for importers and clearing agents to take delivery of their consignments.
According to findings, SON for the last two months have been experiencing system failures due to the ongoing automation of its processes.
The challenge has now gotten to an unbearable level whereby clearing agents could not process their SON documents, especially the SONCAP (Conformity Assessment Program), a vital document required in generating Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) from the Nigeria Customs Service.
To this end, the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) have said the port has so far lost not less than N6billion on daily basis due to the system failures in SON.
Addressing members of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) at the International Maritime Press Centre in Apapa Lagos on Monday, Vice President of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto lamented that in the last two months, it has been very challenging for his members to get their PAAR and they have been paying huge demurrage for a problem that is not their fault.
Speaking he said “Any regulated item by SON must have SONCAP certificate.
There are three procedures for getting this certificate, ideally you are supposed to get your SONCAP offshore, but where you do not get, there is a small window here that is called ‘default’ or ‘import permit’
This was actually created for the manufacturers association of Nigeria to ease their consignment clearance at the port”
“If you have your SONCAP, there is what we call product certificate for form M and SON Code, it is the SON Code that you put into the Customs trade hub for you to generate SONCAP, if you don’t have it, the Nigeria Customs Service would not treat such consignment and they would not issue you PAAR”
“When I called the SON DG, he did not pick, so I sent a text to him about what is happening to SONCAP, but up till now, nothing has been done”
“The SONCAP is a document that has serial number, I am of the opinion that whenever such serial number is imputed in the system, it should synchronize immediately into the Nigeria Customs Service system for them to see that you have SONCAP so they can issue your PAAR, but this never happened”
“When i probed further, they gave me the number of their ICT man who said they are upgrading their system, this is supposed to be a seamless process but it has made things go from bad to worst, in the last two weeks, people cannot get their PAAR as a result of this problem”
“It looks as if the system analyst they brought did not carry Customs along or do not know much about the software. It has gotten to a level that is unbearable, my members are paying demurrage, in the last two weeks we cannot get PAAR, particularly if it is regulated by SON”
“Nigerian ports is losing N6 billion daily as a result of the system collapse in SON, if this is not addressed in 24 hours, there would be chaos in cargo clearance ” he said
Farinto called on the Nigeria Customs Service as the lead agency at the port to rise up to the challenge and proffer solution to the challenge or else, importers and clearing agents would not hesitate to go to court if this continues.
He lamented that stakeholders are losing billions of Naira and there is need for the government to declare a force majure, adding that agents cannot continue to pay demurrages for SON’s faults.
“There should be a palliative measure, SON must agree with the Nigeria Customs that on any regulated item, they allow the clearing agent clear the cargo and later send their officers to the consignees warehouse for further checks” he said
Farinto argued that SON regulated cargoes at the port is about 35%, and due to the system failures, SON is now an impediment to cargo clearance.
He advised that if the automation is not working, SON should revert back to its manual procedure.
Also speaking at the press briefing, Public Relations Officer of PTML Chapter of ANLCA, Ayokunle Sulaiman lamented that clearing agents were paying N20,000 as demurrage on daily basis as a result of the system collapse.
On his part, another chieftain of ANLCA at the briefing, Ojo Akintoye Peter said the challenge with SON has persisted since November 2019. He said that shipping companies and terminals are now benefiting from the collapse caused by SON, adding that the leadership of the association would no longer be silent on the matter